No. 1 Gym Dogs top Gators - this time


University of Florida's Corey Hartung performs on the bars during Friday night's gymnastics meet against the University of Georgia, Friday, January 27, 2006.

BRIANA BROUGH/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

Here's a scary thought for Florida and the rest of the nation's top gymnastics teams: Georgia's Gym Dogs are good. Maybe better than their national title team of a year ago.

The top-ranked Bulldogs made that point Friday night in the O'Connell Center when they defeated No. 5 Florida, 197.025-196.600, in front of 8,338 fans, the second largest gymnastics crowd in UF history. The scores posted by the Bulldogs and Gators were the two highest scores in the nation so far this season.

Afterward, Georgia coach Suzanne Yoculan said her team, which includes five returning All-Americans and two of the nation's top freshmen, is better than last year's title team.

"The potential is so much greater," she said. "You win a national championship and people say, 'How can you be better?' But we have so much depth."

Florida, however, believes it will be able to compete with Georgia by the time the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championships in two months. The Gators recorded season-highs on all events but floor, where two gymnasts stepped out of bounds.

Florida, which increased its difficulty on nearly all routines this season, believes it is taking steps to be a national title contender itself by season's end.

"We obviously made some uncharacteristic mistakes," said junior Samantha Lutz. "But we're confident we can fix those. It's still early in the season."

It was a true freshman who played a big part in the Gators' impressive score. Corey Hartung scored a 9.90 on all three of her routines - bars, beam and floor - in her best performance so far in four meets at Florida.

"She was amazing tonight," Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said.

Hartung won the floor competition, finished second on beam and tied for third place on bars. She did it while competing against some old friends. Hartung went to high school and trained at the same gym in Gaithersburg, Md. as Georgia's Ashley and Courtney Kupets.

"It was fun to see old friends," Hartung said.

Courtney Kupets, a freshman and member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, won the bars (9.950), beam (9.925) and tied for the vault title (9.90) with teammate Tiffany Tolnay, a freshman, and Florida's Tiffany Murry.

Florida's gymnasts were positive afterward despite losing to the Bulldogs.

"I think everyone's spirits are high," said Florida sophomore Nicola Willis, the team's only all-arounder Friday. "They're a great team. It was good for us to face a team so good. There's no hard feelings about the scores."

The Gators had some success facing the Bulldogs last year. Florida defeated Georgia in a dual meet Feb. 4 in Athens, Ga. and also outscored the Bulldogs to capture the NCAA Southeast Region team title April 9 in the O'Connell Center.

But the Bulldogs rebounded by winning the national championship two weeks later in Auburn, Ala. despite being the No. 12 seed.

Prior to last season the Gators had only two wins over the Bulldogs since 1990. It now seems as though everyone in the country is gunning for Georgia.

"If we can have a clean meet we'll be right there with them," Lutz said. "We'll probably have the chance to do that later in the season."

You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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